Staying ahead in Fintech

Published December 17, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

Nagesh Devata General Manager Cross-border Trade Southeast Asia PayPal
Nagesh Devata
General Manager
Cross-border Trade Southeast Asia
PayPal

 

By BERNIE CAHILES-MAGKILAT

Financial technology (fintech) firms are offering solutions to make business transactions more efficient and convenient. Businesses and consumers alike have jumped on the bandwagon at an accelerated speed.

PayPal, one of the pioneers in digital payment platforms, has beaten all others in the race. It considers all markets developed or not, all businesses small or large, as it creates awareness on the benefits of going online and mobile business transactions. It seeks to make business not only transcends boundaries, but promotes financial inclusion.

With that, PayPal pursues with enthusiasm its goal and has put interest on the Philippines and the entire booming economies of southeast Asia.

To put emphasis on the potentials of this unique market, PayPal has put to good use the passion of Nagesh Devata to lead the growth in this region.

FINTECH

Today, fintech is more advanced than ever, with digital payments solutions paving the way for easier, more convenient, and more cost-efficient business transactions. Advanced fintech could not have come at a better time for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) located in hard-to-reach rural areas in the Philippines.

The developing country being an archipelago poses a geographic challenge for them, resulting in unnecessary expenses in terms of money, time, and effort. Fintech may just be the key to solving this problem and, ultimately, to the success of local SMEs.

PayPal has remained at the forefront of the digital payment revolution for more than 20 years. By leveraging technology to make financial services and commerce more convenient, affordable, and secure, the PayPal platform is empowering 300 million consumers and merchants in more than 200 markets to join and thrive in the global economy.

FINANCIAL INCLUSION

Nagesh, who joined PayPal in 2017, is focused in the Southeast Asia market. He oversees market and business development in this region. Passionate about financial inclusion, Nagesh saw the potential of fintech to embrace everyone into this new way of doing business without having to fear they do not have a bank account or being situated in a remote island. Fintech or PayPal is a building block in making the unbanked sector become part of this new era.

Nagesh has been a passionate advocate and champion of digital commerce and financial payment inclusion having worked and partnered with global organizations such as Facebook, Starwood Hotels, Alibaba, Uber, and McDonalds. He was at the forefront of MasterCard’s strategic partnerships with the biggest travel and digital retail partners in Asia Pacific and led the expansion of MasterCard’s reach to the next 100 million merchants.

In the Philippines and from a PayPal perspective, Nagesh observed a huge positive growth happening over the last three years in this archipelago. This was boosted by the freelancer communities that exposed themselves to the world using this digital payment flatform.

According to Nagesh, the freelancer community in the Philippines is one of the biggest globally. Small business owners, which are transitioning into digital commerce, are a big part of this community and now using digital commercial tools not just for Philippine clients but outside the country.

“That is combined with the overall efforts to transform Philippine consumers and businesses become much more digitally savvy. These are independent businesses, which evolution has driven lots of market developments toward financial inclusion,” says Nagesh.

Freelancers are using PayPal quite actively in terms of connecting merchants that also use PayPal such as airlines, hotel accommodations, among others. This has benefited greatly the tourism industry down to the grassroots level. As such fintech helps drives tourism activities as people become more confident to buy and pay online.

To encourage freelancers, PayPal do communications platforms and more education campaigns on how to connect with PayPal, how to navigate the application and help themselves.

Overall, there has been an acceleration of growth in the ASEAN region as businesses encroach new markets. Their engagement is driving growth on wider scale as they value the importance of convenience and safety.

“I think the type of services offered by freelancers are similar but Filipino freelancers are truly entrepreneurial, and they are from everything and from all kinds of design services for US and Europe clients so they are gaining more financially,” says Nagesh.

From the PayPal perspective, the Philippines has achieved “very good” progress over the years.

“There is a general evolution of business, they are going online,” says Nagesh noting that businesses are starting to develop stores online and exporting goods not just within ASEAN, but globally and are really trying to find new customers and trying to connect.

“So, we see the momentum,” adds Nagesh, who holds an MBA from Case Western University, and a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Toronto.

COMPETITION

As digital commerce rises, lots of online payment portals also developed. And although PayPal is one of the pioneers, it does not sleep on their laurels rather it continues to aggressively position to stay ahead. But for the rest of the players, there is just so huge an opportunity in the e-commerce market to share.

“I would say PayPal is unique in a sense that we have 295 million customers from over 200 countries so we are really able to provide that scale globally,” says Nagesh proudly.

With its scale, PayPal has strong collaboration with various many players and complementing each other. Such scale also enables listed merchants access to a market around the world.

Nagesh also cited the presence of many players in this landscape as good for competition. It drives fintech firms to aim for more financial inclusion as it raises the level of trust and confidence among businesses to go mobile.

In terms of security, PayPal is able to provide security with its risk management platform. Its customers have gained confidence in its platform as they protect all transactions from merchants to consumers at the global level.

In addition, the experience of a seamless checkout experience whether on desk top or mobile gives both businesses and their customers unprecedented satisfaction. Such connectivity and ease of payments helps businesses to be able to integrate to global markets.

CHALLENGES

Even as PayPal is flying high and more people and businesses are getting onboard its platform, Nagesh has acknowledged there is still that gaping challenge.

“Obviously, there is the need to drive greater inclusion enabling more consumers and driving more efforts to make the unbanked to bank and sort of building blocks for them,” says Nagesh.

In the Philippines, he cited that geographic challenge that makes distribution, logistics and shipping to different islands with poor infrastructure a bigger challenge.

But this is exactly the role of fintech firms to provide a solution. “Fintech companies are very much part of the journey to make everyone realize the benefits whether you are in the remote islands or across borders,” he emphasizes.

It will take some time though to see that transformation but Nagesh said that the more exciting thing is that lots of people are becoming digitally savvy. They are on mobile platforms and are active on social media. “This is driving to inflection point for the Philippines,” he adds.

Another challenge is Internet connectivity. Nagesh, however, said that Internet speed is not just a problem in the Philippines but also in other parts of the world.

The traditional infrastructure, struggles for mobility, and the challenge of the big unbanked population, are as much a challenge to PayPal as they are to their host countries.

With strong collaboration all coming together to help the business community to have the necessary tools like logistics, telecommunications and access to financial technologies, connectivity can be improved sooner.

BULLISH

The attention PayPal has put in the Philippine market is a testament of the importance of this country to its overall business.

Notably, Nagesh cited the OFWs as significant portion in the PayPal business in the Philippines. There are OFWs in Singapore and Hong Kong that patronize PayPal for payments of items they purchase to be delivered to their loved ones back home.

PayPal also operates a BPO office in Alabang to provide support to its customers, employing Filipino representatives.

The Philippines is unique with its huge tech savvy young population and huge startups creating startup communities. “People are taking their unique ideas from fashion to tourism opening opportunities to more small and mid-sized companies,” according to Nagesh.

“We are bullish in the Philippines because of the tremendous opportunities for future entrepreneurs,” he adds.

Aside from the bustling tourism, there are exports from the Philippines that are unique only to this country. There are innovative ideas that could add more services and value to exports from here. Because of this digital economy, Nagesh cited of a growing shared economy. There are the popular ride-sharing applications, food services, and others.

It should be noted that, initially, PayPal just covered the small businesses who signed up with them and selling their merchandize and were trying to connect with customers, but now they have the entire spectrum on board their platform. They are all connected digitally, globally.

“Now, we have the large enterprises onboard such as the airlines that use the PayPal billing platform and more and more. So, we’re seeing that evolution,” he adds.

CULTURE

It’s been early days for Nagesh, who joined PayPal two years ago as the Director of SMB, Core Merchants and Channels business for Southeast Asia.

In his current capacity, Nagesh is responsible for establishing PayPal as the digital payments leader in this fast-growing market of Southeast Asia. Based in Singapore, he drives PayPal’s business strategy, sales, partnerships and merchant adoption of PayPal’s newest payment innovations to transform commerce in the region.

But what attracted him to this fintech company is the opportunity to build PayPal in the Southeast Asia landscape. The excitement still remains in him.

“It is just tons of potential. What excited me about PayPal is the opportunity to solve some problems as we are trying to help lots of people in making their business transactions easier. I think it is an opportunity to convert and being able to provide a level of knowledge by giving businesses a tool for seamless payment portal,” he adds.

Aside from this exciting opportunity, Nagesh also loves the PayPal culture. “So far, so good,” adds Nagesh, who has covered a wide range of geographies in his career, working in countries including Canada, US, Middle East/Africa and most recently Asia Pacific.

“We’re also in an interesting journey from a transformational and now trying to figure out how our small businesses become smarter to attract more customers out there,” adds Nagesh, who as a Southeast Asia leader has to visit the Philippines every month as he travels around the region.

In the Philippines, PayPal conducts educational sessions with stakeholders focusing on the freelancing segment to grab the right opportunity, motivate them and ensure they have a good experience using its platform.

They engage all businesses whether small or large because PayPal offers a suite of functionalities. They have been a part in the journey of these businesses. At first, businesses just sell goods online and when they feel secure and overcome that trust issues, they embrace digital payments.

“It is all about conversion of customers,” says Nagesh noting that they have reached a high conversion rate of 80 percent.

GOALS

In the next five years, Nagesh hopes to accomplish three things.

First is to be able to leverage upon the huge opportunities in the Philippines as the world moves more towards a mobile first for easy integration and seamless checkout experience. All these years, he learned that collaboration and partnership are what brought success. He would strive to put focus on the each of the local markets in this booming ASEAN region.

Second, Nagesh vowed that PayPal will always listen to customers and be aware of their concerns and problems. Third is to continually provide them with the necessary tools to support them in their journey.

“I’ve seen independent businesses that are now running ten people as they have been able to leverage the fact that they can connect business overseas because they trust us and we’ve seen that evolution,” adds Nagesh, a Canadian but who now lives in Singapore.

“I kind of believe that we are in this world and we are all discovering. For me, it is making sure we keep coming back to customers to find out what is the problem and solve them, what can we do to help and how,” says Nagesh.
He is certain to accomplish this mission together with his team. This is how PayPal should stay on top of the game.

 
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